The roar of a chainsaw, and a splattering of blood and gore fill the screen. The first thing one might expect to see is a wild eyed maniac with a mask made of human flesh, stalking more unsuspecting teenagers. When the camera reveals the killer, you may be surprised to see a beautiful woman wielding bloody power tools. She’s Chainsaw Sally, the internet phenomenon who manages to combine sexy with psycho in a way that is both fun and scary to watch. She’s a fan favorite at horror conventions and has been the subject of a feature film, comic books, and even her own show. But who is the woman behind the saw? April Burril puts down her lethal implements for a few minutes to talk about her character Chainsaw Sally, her thoughts on the horror industry and why you shouldn’t trust a guy in an oxford shirt and khakis.
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Nic – April, you’re probably best known for your alter-ego Chainsaw Sally. How did she come about?
April – The character actually began before the movie or the Chainsaw Sally Show. JimmyO and I together created her to be a sort of spokes-slasher for our live show, "Silver Scream." We made her with the brutality of Leatherface (whom she’s known to have a huge crush on), some of the intelligence (not to mention appetite) of Hannibal Lecter, the wisecracking gleefulness of Freddy Krueger, and the all-out punk rock spirit of Tank Girl. Later, when we left stage and started venturing into film, Sally had already gained a completely unexpected popularity, so we ended up giving in to fans’ requests to make a Chainsaw Sally movie. Years later, with a lot more filming experience under our belts, we decided to create The Chainsaw Sally Show as a fun sitcom-type series of webisodes. As opposed to previous projects, we purposely did not go searching for investors or distributors, but kept the project completely independent. We’ve had really great audience response to it so far, and there will definitely be a Season 2 on the way.
Nic – Why do you think Chainsaw Sally is such a popular character?
April – Hard to say… could be that, although Sally is a sexual character, she doesn’t completely rely on that sexuality to carry out her bloody work. She’s strong in other ways – in brawn and brains. Her main victims are usually the kind of people that annoy us all in minor ways on a day to day basis, so there’s that little bit of satisfaction as well. We strive to keep her both light-hearted and fun, while at the same time disturbingly brutal and cruel.
Nic – THE CHAINSAW SALLY SHOW was done as a webisode sitcom. Why did you and JimmyO decide to do it in that format instead of as another feature film?
April – It was an experiment really. We have a script for Chainsaw Sally 2 that has been awaiting investment for a long time now (every time we find an investor, we then hear about the things they want to change…), so we both thought it a shame to let this character go to waste. We didn’t want to simplify the CS2 plot to meet a lower budget, but we didn’t want to do a different feature that would interrupt the anticipated storyline of the movie. Somehow, the webisode idea evolved.
Nic – Chainsaw Sally isn’t the only project you’ve been working on. I understand that you’ve completed work on a new feature film as well: THE GOOD SISTERS. Can you tell us about that project?
April – It’s quite a departure from the black comedy of Chainsaw Sally. THE GOOD SISTERS is much darker and more psychological in nature. It stars Debbie Rochon and myself as two sisters who are descended from Sarah Good – a woman accused of and executed for witchcraft during the Salem trials. The sisters are witches of a very dark nature that believe they – as well as their ancestors before them – are constantly being hunted by the descendants of witch hunters. A series of bizarre instances, coupled with a strange new neighbor in the large house their apartment is in, leads them to believe the noose is drawing tight and that the time has come to retaliate. The thing I really enjoy about this film is that it’s not clear as to whether the sisters suspicions are justified or if they are simply succumbing to self-induced paranoia. Also, as an interesting side-note, the rituals and chanting used in the film are all based on actual research into the occult conducted by JimmyO, Debbie, and myself.
Nic – As an actress what do you find to be the most challenging part of a new project?
April – Usually, the toughest part is just getting back into the swing of acting if there’s been a long hiatus between projects. As far as what kind of acting is the toughest, I’d definitely say that the wilder the character, the easier it is to portray. "Normal" characters require much more subtlety in order to come across as natural and convincing.
Nic – What do you think is the reason that horror is such a popular genre?
April – I think it’s popular for the same reason roller coasters are popular. You get the adrenaline rush of a good scare, (or the rush of a good kill if you side with the bad guys…) but it’s safe and no one really gets hurt in the end. There are other facets to it, I’m sure, but that seems to be the gist of it for most people.
Nic – Herschell Gordon Lewis was one of the producers on the Chainsaw Sally Show and he also appeared in the CHAINSAW SALLY movie as well. What is it like to work with the “Godfather of Gore” and how did he get involved in the project?
April – JimmyO and I actually met Herschell several years back when Jimmy called him to invite him to appear at a friend’s horror convention. Jimmy left a message and almost fell over when his call was returned! I rarely see him stuttering and starstruck – it was pretty amusing. After that, I interviewed Herschell for the Chainsaw Sally site, later we all met for dinner when he was coming through town… and eventually, after a year or two of exchanging friendly emails, we were making the "Chainsaw Sally" movie and invited Herschell to appear. We were so thrilled when he said yes. He was an absolute joy to work with. Really, any chance to hang out with Herschell and his lovely wife, Margot, is a real treat. They are a couple of fascinating, intelligent people.
Nic – Some people are critical of the horror genre for its depictions of violence and women. What would you say to them on the subject?
April – I would tell them that they obviously don’t need to be watching horror movies, then. Violence is going to be inherent in a genre that plays on fear. There can be horror without it, but it’s just the way some stories are going to be told. The few times when it becomes "glorified" I think are a good way of letting off steam for some audience members. Repressed urges just grow and distort. Look at two guys: one is tattooed and pierced and wearing a Leatherface t-shirt, the other is quiet, clean cut, in a button-up oxford and khakis… which one is gonna be the serial killer that keeps his mom’s corpse in the basement? My money’s on Mr. Oxford.
As far as the portrayal of women in horror goes… the female villains are often the most sinister. And that runs true through most of the history of horror film. The woman as a victim, however, has changed enormously over the last 20 years or so. More and more often, the girls are punching, kicking, and saving the day just as much as their male counterparts. Grrrl Power!!
Nic – So what does April Burril like to do for fun?
April – Aside from movie-making? Draw, paint, dance, practice guitar, learn tae kwon do, play with my kids, cook, watch good movies, watch bad movies, drink wine, have sex, eat chocolate, drink coffee, laugh, and read. Read, read, read. Especially Stephen King.
Nic – You’re really good at scaring other people as Chainsaw Sally. Is there anything that scares you?
April – If there was, I certainly wouldn’t share it in an interview!
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